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Winter Meetings interview with Mike Scioscia

Q. Mike, just in general, how do you feel about the upgrades so far this winter?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, I think that everyone knew and we knew that a lot of our upgrades were going to come in-house with the formation of a starting rotation that could really get our games where we need them to be on a consistent basis, and we feel that's in the process of happening with Garrett Richards looking healthy, with Matt Shoemaker getting clearance, Ricky Nolasco, his improvements, Tyler Skaggs, Chavez, Meyer, all the candidates we have.

There's no doubt that's going to be the biggest boost to our club, adding Maybin as we did. I know that Billy is working very hard to fill in at other positions and get some depth.

Q. Mike, just in general, how do you feel about the upgrades so far this winter?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, I think that everyone knew and we knew that a lot of our upgrades were going to come in-house with the formation of a starting rotation that could really get our games where we need them to be on a consistent basis, and we feel that's in the process of happening with Garrett Richards looking healthy, with Matt Shoemaker getting clearance, Ricky Nolasco, his improvements, Tyler Skaggs, Chavez, Meyer, all the candidates we have.

There's no doubt that's going to be the biggest boost to our club, adding Maybin as we did. I know that Billy is working very hard to fill in at other positions and get some depth.

I think we're confident and very confident we'll be better. Now, to what extent, that's why you want to secure that depth to help you overcome some of those rough spots, and I know he's working on it.

Q. What kind of second baseman would you like to have?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, I think that's one of the spots that we absolutely need to add some depth. I think we have a couple -- we have some guys that can be part of the solution, but we need more depth there. So about what kind do you want? I mean, are you talking like -- who are you talking about?

Q. Leaning more towards defense, more towards offense, right-handed hitter, left-handed hitter, fast, top of the order, bottom of the order?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Where our club stands right now, the obvious look would be, hey, is there anyone out there that could hit left-handed. But you don't always get your Christmas list answered exactly where you want it, but we definitely need some depth there. I know that Billy is working hard on it.

Q. Is the defense something that you can't do without?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think that we need a level of defense out there. Obviously the hitters that bring the bigger offense and maybe can play average defense are still going to be guys that you're going to put your arms around. But you have to have the minimum amount of defense there that can just settle down your pitching staff and make the plays.

Q. When you talk about guys at second base, are you referring to Cliff and Kaleb, also, guys in house? Who else?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think all of them. You saw a lot of the guys that we had played there last year. I'm not sure if they are all -- some of them re-signed to the Minor Leagues, like Rey Navarro I know is back with them. Unfortunately didn't get a look. Without going through the whole litany of names, we have guys that can be part of the solution, but I think that, I've said it already, depth is really something we need to look at at that position.

Q. At the start of the off-season, you said you don't think your team is as far back as the perception is, but you said you do need to get better. And I know you acknowledged you don't always get everything on your Christmas list, but you did make two significant additions Maybin and Chavez. How many more additions do you feel like the roster needs to reach the goals that you have?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Whether something happens now, whether something happens between now and Spring Training or something happens during Spring Training, I think that I really anticipate us adding some more depth at some of the positions we're talking about.

I think we will be better, no doubt, Opening Day of 2017 than we were probably after the first month of 2016. But yeah, we're going to welcome any depth that Billy can find, and we are better. To what extent, we'll see when you start playing games.

Q. So just so I don't misunderstand, even without any further significant additions, just the depth additions, you feel like your team will still be better?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Absolutely. It's going to be better with the reinstitution of Garrett Richards as a lead dog in the rotation, with Matt Shoemaker coming off of probably a 12-start stretch in which he really learned something and pitched like a legitimate No. 1; with Tyler Skaggs getting hopefully all the cobwebs of his rehab of Tommy John and ready to go. You saw Nolasco improve the last month. He made some big adjustments and Chavez and Meyer, all the way down. That's going to be the biggest improvement in our club, is going to be our starting pitching.

I think you combine that with the emergence of Cam Bedrosian, you saw Bailey, JC Ramirez, Huston Street working very hard and he wants to reestablish himself. We are going to be better. I don't think there's any doubt in my mind that we're going to be better. To what extent we're better, we're going to be ready in Spring Training and hopefully get ourselves contending.

Q. How do you see the eighth and ninth -- I guess, seventh, eighth and ninth innings -- shaking out for your bullpen?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: We need depth in the back end of the bullpen, and whoever gets the job to close out the last three outs, we have candidates to do that. And I think you'll match up before that to get there.

But I think that a couple things have the potential to happen on our pitching staff, which is the biggest part of your defense. We definitely have the potential to bridge some of those innings more with not getting 15, 16, 17 outs from our starters.

You get those 18, 19, 20 outs from your starters, your bullpen is going to respond better. I think that has a probability that that's going to happen with the starting pitchers being more effective and being healthy. So whatever, seventh, eighth, ninth inning, whatever that ends up rolling into, we have some guys that we can put in some different roles.

Q. Defensively you shifted a lot more than ever before. How satisfied are you with the results of that, and do you foresee tweaking the shifting at all?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: There's twofold to that. The data that we get that suggests shifting, we have the utmost confidence in. What we're wrestling with now in the last three, four years is really the whole application of that and to cut off relays into how do we turn a double play, tweaking maybe some of the sets according to the situation.

So I have 100 percent confidence in the data we get and the suggestion of shifting. Now we're trying to get players comfortable with, really, playing out of position from where they played for their whole lives. Very rarely did you see a second baseman 30 feet on the outfield grass ten years ago. Very rarely did you try to turn a double play with one guy on the left side of the infield who has the responsibility of covering halfway between short and third but also the responsibility of getting to the bag on a double play.

There's a lot of things that we're trying to apply and get players used to. So back to your question, I'm 100 percent good with it and we're getting better with applying it.

Q. It sounds like you think there are ways it could be improved going forward.
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Oh, no doubt. Also, we've done it for the last four years through our Minor League system. So there's less -- I think it's less culture shock when a young player comes in the Major Leagues and he's kind of familiar with the neighborhood of where we're playing on shifting, and what responsibilities are. Because the biggest thing, starting probably six, seven years ago, we started to look at more shifting and it was thrown onto the desks of managers and coaches. We have the task of figuring out, okay, when the ball is hit, how are we covering bases, how are we setting up cutoff of relays.

And it's great to sit down and put it on paper, but to get players used to this, that takes some work. It's an ongoing process.

Q. Where do you see Cameron Maybin hitting in your lineup?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Cameron, I think he's good, because he's a swing player. He can play, he can hit one or two. He can hit fifth or sixth. Although like obviously the power numbers are not going to jump up and grab you, his ability to square up a baseball and hit it hard is real, almost like Escobar, if you look at what Escobar does.

Cameron has some different ways that we can look and gives us some exciting possibilities for how we can lengthen our lineup.

Q. Is it ideally, if you can get him, Escobar, one, two, and then you can have Cole or a run producer down --
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yes, that's one thing. That's one thing we looked at. Not the thing, but that is one of the scenarios that play out in getting a guy like Cameron, yes.

Q. There's a lot of great reports on Matt.
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Matt is really an advanced hitter for his experience level and his age. I got the chance to see him down in the instructional league, and he's exciting. Where it shows up this year, nobody knows. Matt is in what is the proving ground, which is the Minor Leagues.

His advancement and his preparation to get to the Major Leagues is going to be based on his performance, and we think he'll fare very well. I think he learned a lot last year. It's a tough year when you get out your first year halfway through after you've already played a collegiate year, and you play all the way through October, which is the end of the Instructional League. He held up great. We're looking for big things.

But I don't think we need to set a timetable on him. I think that his performance and how he advance will happen on its own time.

Q. Huston said he feels like he's a better reliever when he's closing, and Billy said he's not going to be guaranteed that closing spot and he's going to have to compete. Given that, how do you feel about Huston and his prospects?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: We had some very candid conversation with Huston, and he understands this. I think his makeup definitely is suited to pitch in the ninth inning. He's shown he can do it. It's not an easy thing to get acclimated to, and that's where we are going, where you see a young guy like Bedrosian or Bailey, Huston knows the neighborhood. He's there.

But his role is going to be based on his performance. If he's throwing the ball like he did and throwing it consistently, he's a natural to be at the back end of our bullpen. And he definitely has a chance to win that job, and we will be deeper if Huston is pitching in the ninth inning, you can work your way back; if it's not Huston, somebody else is pitching in the ninth inning, we're working back. We're going to line up our depth that way.

Q. Is there a concern he might lose effectiveness, if Cam pitches better than him in the spring?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: This isn't that complicated. You're going to go with the guys that are best suited for a role. He might be more effective as far as his talent in the ninth inning, but if there's a guy that's better than a certain pitcher in that ninth inning, so be it. If he feels he's less effective in the seventh, but somebody more effective in the ninth, he's going to pitch in the seventh.

Q. JC proved pretty durable in the bullpen.
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Threw a lot.

Q. How do you feel about his attempted conversion to a starter during spring?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I don't think it's going to set him back. We're going to look and see how it goes with starting. But I think the added depth that we have in our rotation, probably will give us an opportunity at some point to look at adding more depth in our bullpen if JC does flip back to our bullpen. But it certainly is worth getting him as a starter, stretching him out, and then seeing what fork in the road we'll take.

But we're excited about his arm. You saw he threw the ball very well for us the last half of the year.

Q. Have you had a year where you went into Spring Training with a closer competition, where you didn't know who the closer was going to be when Spring Training started?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Not very often.

Q. Because closers don't get the volume of work that other players do, so is it difficult to have a competition, make an evaluation based on Spring Training for that job?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yeah, certainly where players ended up last year, as far as how far we think they progressed, evaluate them this spring and line up our bullpen, which can be fluid. I don't think we're -- you line up your bullpen for the first week of the season, and you have to adjust from that, so be it.

But I think the biggest issue is to get the depth there, get the names there, get the talent there, and then you can see how it sorts out as you get through spring and into the season. We feel we're establishing that depth.

Q. There's been so much discussion about using relievers in different ways and not necessarily locking them into the ninth inning. But stepping back, what do you even think of the save stat? It's arbitrary, it's a three-run lead in the ninth inning; it almost seems like it's hamstringing teams the way people are used.
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I don't know, as a closer, you know maybe it's not a save situation and you have to pitch, you go pitch. Save, it is an arbitrary number. It seems arbitrary. But at least it's a guideline that gives you a little baseline of a player's performance.

I'm not of the school of thought that the ninth inning is just another three outs. My experience tells me it's different because I've seen guys that have stuff personified that is the type guy that you would love to match up in the ninth inning because of his stuff matches up with whoever the lineup is, and I've seen it time and time again where guys will have the right makeup to go out there in the ninth inning, and they fail.

So closers are a special breed. The last three outs, although logically tells you it's just another three outs, my experience tells me it's not. And some guys have trouble pitching in tight games, even in the seventh inning. It's just human nature.

As far as like how bullpens are run and how bullpens are set up, I think if you have guys that have closer makeup and have the ability to pitch in the ninth inning and you can match up, that's the optimum. If you have the one stud closer, that's great. But then what happens is a lot -- like the closer is your most protected asset in that bullpen because if he's in that bubble, there's less of him getting hot and not pitching or getting hot at a certain time and not pitching. That happens to guys that pitch more in the middle in a setup.

If you're pulling them on one part of the rope, you're straining another part. I don't know if I'm answering your question right or answering your question the way -- maybe I'm not answering your question. But I do feel that, if you're talking about save as an arbitrary number, just a guideline of what, just trying to measure the effectiveness of the closer --

Q. Just thinking of players as human beings, they know they are rewarded based on how they perform in the inning, maybe they get the save, and if that wasn't there, there would be more fluidity.
MIKE SCIOSCIA: The hold is a stat that's jumped into prominence in the last ten years. Guys are lining up the hold leaders in every league. You can get an idea of what a seventh- or what an eighth-inning guy can do. Holding leads, those stats, even they are arbitrary, they are there for a reason.

I think holding leads is a major component of a winning team. And if you're not holding leads, you're going to really struggle to reach your goal. However, it is quantified as a hold or a save, you want to end up with a lead at the end of a game.

Q. You know Buddy Black very well.

Q. Can you talk for a moment about his attributes as a manager and what kind of a fit you believe he's going to make as a new manager in Colorado?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Buddy, his baseball intelligence is off the charts. He's really -- he's a bright guy, but he's got people skills that just are very rare to see in not only a manager but in people that you meet. He genuinely cares about people. He understands people. He communicates with people. And he even said it, you know, communication is mostly listening, and he's a great listener.

All those attributes are dwarfed by his competitive nature. He wants to win. He wants to achieve. He wants to succeed. I think that's where it starts from when you have a talented guy like Buddy to come in. You'll notice a difference. You'll notice a difference throughout Spring Training. You'll notice a difference around the clubhouse. These players will feed off that and will play at the level they should.

Q. You've had so much success with the Angels and the last couple years have been rough; how hard has that been on you, when you're used to winning?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: A couple years ago, won 98 games, slipped to 85, and last year we were decimated with injuries. I don't think we're that far removed from when you talk about having some success.

That being said, you're always driven to achieve. You're always driven to succeed. And when you don't reach that goal, we always have high expectations in our organization, and when you don't reach that goal, it stings.

All of us looked in the mirror very hard after this season just to get an idea of where we can get better, both in what we do from a coaching standpoint, obviously on a scouting standpoint, everything that goes into putting together a championship team.

Yeah, losing is not easy. But I don't think if you don't learn how to lose, you're never going to win. These hard times hopefully serve a purpose to make us better and we can reach our goal.

Q. Going back to the ninth inning thing, you said that some guys just don't get the last three outs as well, but how unique is that? You have seven guys in the bullpen, and if you want to use your, quote/unquote, closer, early, how many of those other six guys in an average season have that mentality to do it?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think I said, the optimum is we have a number of guys with the makeup that are just going to go out there and make their pitches, whatever the situation, whether they are pitching the sixth inning or the ninth inning.

So, you know, guys come in in the eighth inning to clean up the eighth inning, have as much pressure on them as the closer. They understand how important it is.

So if you do use your closer for some reason where the matchup is just too great, the game is on the line in the seventh inning and this guy is really the best chance for you to control this game and use him in the seventh, then yeah, you're just rolling the dice at the end with guys that you have confidence can pitch back there but it's not really what they have been groomed to do.

So yeah, hopefully, you know, I think the makeup of the bullpen is important. I think guys that have the makeup to pitch in the eighth inning and be successful, most of those guys probably have the makeup to pitch in the ninth inning. A lot of the guys that pitch in the middle and pitch in non -- what are, quote/unquote, non-pressure situations and can execute their pitches but have trouble when it's a close game or the game is late, those guys are just not going to match up and get it done for you.

Q. Is it similar to shifting; that if you bring up guys in the Minor Leagues in certain roles, they can adapt better in the Big Leagues?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: No. Player development is totally different about how you are developing talent. And most of the closers in the Major Leagues were starters in the Minor Leagues. Just because they are young and trying to figure out their stuff, and the more pitches you throw, the more you learn about yourself.

So as a starter to go out and throw 90 to a hundred pitches in the Minor Leagues in a game is going to give you a better ability to develop and get a feel for all your pitches than it is to go out there and throw 15 pitches maybe three times a week.

Most starters that are in starting positions were in the Minor Leagues -- or excuse me. Most closers started their career as a starting pitcher in the Minor Leagues and were eventually put in the bullpen and then put into a closer role at some point.

Q. Going back to the other end of the bullpen, obviously you saw in the playoffs -- I remember we used to decry the fact that a pitcher didn't go nine innings or eight innings or seven, and now they are going five. Is it possible with all the money they are paying these pitchers that maybe you're going to see a change in the middle, in the bottom half of the bullpen and more multiple-inning guys?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think you saw it in Cleveland, it was more a dynamic of the way their team was set up. Their bullpen became an über bullpen by the middle of the year when Miller came on. And I think Tito felt the best chance was to, if he can get his bullpen arms in there, to match up at a certain point in the game, and playoff games are going to be different, to have the best chance of winning.

Some pitchers pitch deep in the games in playoffs, some starters do. Probably it's going to be contingent on the makeup of the team, how you get 27 outs, how it's going to be chopped up and what makes sense. But if we are going to be at a 25-man roster and starting pitching length continues to erode over an amount of time in baseball, you are going to see two- or three-men benches, which is going to put a strain on your guy that's got the tight hamstring and you've got nobody else to play on a Sunday afternoon, that kind of thing.

Yeah, I don't think baseball is going to that. I think that there's that comfort level where you need to get 18 to 20 outs from your starter if you're going to be functional. I don't think that equation changes much. I think the playoffs are different. I certainly think the playoffs are going to be where this run is too important and I've got three fresh arms down there that are going to be able to get me, instead of nine outs, could easily get me ten or 11 outs, if you make that decision.

Q. You spoke about looking in the mirror after the season ended, all of you guys as a staff. Can you share maybe what you might have learned?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I'm ugly. (Laughter).

Q. Maybe how you might -- given what you learned and what you reflect upon, how you might manage the season differently, if at all?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I'm going to be managing ugly next year. I'm not going to change. That's me.

No, I think that any time you go through a season, whether it's a good season or a bad season, there's a certain amount of you look within and you look within not only yourself but you look within your staff and you look within your organization to see if there are things that you can do better.

I think that as far as when I looked in there, I think that there was certainly things that you take out of every season that you know you want to get more efficient at, whatever your system is, whatever you're doing. And there were some things that we did extraordinarily well, I think you guys saw some of them, that they are going to make us better, but they didn't show up last year.

Q. What were the things we didn't see?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: There were some things that we did well that you guys didn't see. It's the way we see the game.

Q. Garrett, sort of a unique situation, not many precedents, how do you go about -- when will you go about deciding how you'll handle his pitches per start and monitoring his between-start progress? You can't necessarily treat him like you did at the start of 2016. When does that start to happen?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: We already started. We already started putting together some scenarios, putting together -- I think a lot of it is going to hinge on where he is as we get out of Spring Training. You know, you're not going to see Garrett throwing 220 innings next year.

Q. What do you think is the range?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think as we go and hopefully he stays healthy, I think we can easily get him in a range which is manageable, whatever that's going to be. I hate to put a floor on it and have to get into a range right now, but I can tell you that we are going to be very, very careful with where Garrett is and make sure that he rebounds and maintains his stuff.

There are going to be times where your stuff is really sub-par, and every pitcher does, and we're going to try to avoid that as best we can. And that's only going to come with depth in your organizational rotation, and I think we will be deeper.

Yes, not only Garrett, but you're looking at a lot of guys that are going to be in Garrett's position coming back in 2018, Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano, guys like that. You have to be sensitive to that and we have -- I think there's good data from our medical department is going to help us to make those decisions and give us guidance.

Q. At this time last year, you guys operated as if you had eight starters to pick from during Spring Training. How many do you feel like are in that same category, and given that obviously those eight didn't withstand the entire season, is the depth that you might have at starting pitching, is it more questionable than you had at this time a year ago, and do you feel like it's enough?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I really think you've got to -- I mean, what happened last year to us, if that's the norm, we're in trouble. You can never build in for all the things that happened to us. You can't build in for Garrett, Heaney, Tropeano, Skaggs not coming back. And I'm not only talking about Shoe in September, but you can't build deep enough to absorb that. You can bring guys up, but they are not going to be to that level.

I think that the routine wear and tear of a rotation, you can always expect to use eight or nine guys, and I think we are eight or nine deep.

Q. You have eight or nine guys you feel comfortable starting a game?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yes. And hopefully we are not going to have to tap into the other three as much as we did last year, where some guys really had to push it.

Q. Will you do anything different in Spring Training as far as the way the pitchers prepare for the season?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: We think that it is tailored to a pitcher's needs on an individual basis, not just blanket the number of pitches they throw or how they stepped up is all based on a pitcher -- what we think the needs are and talking to the pitcher. We are not going to change anything. Some guys, some pitchers have some flukes through the season. No, the things that we looked at, we didn't see any indication that we need to overhaul some of the training things that we do, spring in particular.

Q. How much do you think the organization will be different from previous seasons under your former GM?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: From our perspective or what they are going to do up there? How it affects us?

I think we're pretty good. I think we're pretty good. I think we're pretty good, you know, in the way we integrated everything we're doing and how we're implementing. But like we spoke before, the vast majority of what the analytics is doing is on projected performance of players, which is different from --

Q. More from the front office --
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Right, than for us as far as what we do in the dugout. There's no doubt we've got a lot of things on shifting and a lot of things on probabilities. But the expanse of that will affect us by I think evaluating the players to a little deeper degree.

Q. Do you have any thoughts on Mike Trout playing the WBC?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: It's his decision. He'll be ready for the season whether he plays there or plays in a normal spring, but it's Mike's decision. I don't know if he's made any decision yet.

Q. Have you talked to him about it?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Talked to him in September about it. Same thing I said right now.

Q. Have you talked to Jared?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yeah, we texted a couple times.

Q. How do you feel about his prospects?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: He's working out hard. I think it's the first step. I think he wants to -- it's not a lot of fun for him to pitch with diminished velocity, and I agree with him that he can take some steps to improve his velocity.

Q. Do you want him back?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think you always leave the door open. I don't know if there's availability to pitch, but he would be a candidate. But got to see where he is.

Q. Are you all right with the catchers you have?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think our catchers do a tremendous job behind the plate defensively. Obviously offensively, they are young hitters and, you know, Carlos picked it up a little bit, and Jett is making some adjustments. But both those guys are really good defensively, and we're going to be good if they can do what they need to do behind the plate.

Los Angeles Angels